Page 1172 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 9 April 2008
Mr Corbell: I think she should be asked to withdraw those comments.
MR SPEAKER: I think that is a fair call. Would you withdraw those comments?
DR FOSKEY: Mr Speaker, I withdraw the comment that I made before I was stopped.
MR SPEAKER: Proceed.
DR FOSKEY: Of course, I would like to finish talking about it because it is such an interesting example of exactly the kind of action that we are trying to prevent. I do urge members to have a look for themselves and see what is going on down there in the Victorian Supreme Court.
I urge government members to at least insist on a proper briefing as to why they should not be supporting this bill, which seems to fit squarely into Labor policy and principles. Government members should reject out of hand any attempt to use the Gunns case as a reason for delaying dealing with the issue. For the benefit of other Labor members I would like to quote from the letter I wrote in response to this proposition:
As you would presumably be aware, there may not be resolution to the Gunns case within this decade, let along this term of Government. You may or may not be aware … that the substance of the Gunns case—
and I take your advice on this—
has changed significantly over the course of the action, with three causes … being struck out and criticised heavily by the court.
We know that the Gunns writs were issued two days before their pulp mill proposal was announced. That was in 2004—clearly not coincidental. It is now 2008 and, as yet, as I said—
MR SPEAKER: Dr Foskey, I have cautioned you about reference to that case—
DR FOSKEY: This is a historical mention. I am not commenting on the case; I am merely giving the historical facts.
MR SPEAKER: and being critical of one side or the other in the case. I would ask you to discontinue that approach.
DR FOSKEY: Right. The Gunns case has sounded a warning to other community groups and individuals who might have considered speaking up against proposals similar to the ones that are, I expect, being defended in the courts. That is the nature of SLAPP suits, Mr Speaker: they are about silencing people who would criticise a proposal—who would make the details of a proposal public, as one would assume is their right—and cautioning other people who might have been going to speak out.
In a sense, once a writ has been issued the outcome has been achieved. And in a sense what happens in the courts is not so very material. In such cases, the fact that a small